This story is part of the State of Change project, produced in partnership with the Solutions Journalism Network. Dilapidated motels line the entrance to Grants, New Mexico, signs of the boom that came and went in this town of 9,000 people. Reclamation work continues at the mines that once earned Grants the nickname “uranium capital of the world,” but federal figures show the mining industry employs a fraction of what it once did in the historic U.S. Route 66 town. “The uranium mines were good to us,” said Sarah Pena, 71, a lifelong Grants resident. “They brought the economy up, and there are a lot of people who are still here, who stayed.”
Today, finding consistent work is a challenge for Pena and scores of others in Cibola County, where the unemployment rate is higher than the state average and precious little besides a few private prisons powers the local economy. To Pena, an 80-mile drive to an office job in Albuquerque started to sound like the best option.
ALBUQUERQUE – With cuts and bruises on his face, back and shoulders, Jerome Eskeets frantically told police about the violent assault he barely survived the night before. In his 30s, Eskeets had been sleeping in an empty lot on Albuquerque’s west side with friends and relations, Allison Gorman and Kee Thompson, who like Eskeets were Dine’, as members of the Navajo Nation call themselves. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth. Soon after talking to Eskeets, police found Gorman’s and Thompson’s bludgeoned bodies. The 2014 crime shocked Albuquerque, the state and occasionally made national news as the cases against the three defendants eventually arrested in the brutal killings — youths Alex Rios, Nathaniel Carrillo and Gilbert Tafoya — worked their way through the court system.
Last week, Santa Clara Village Clerk Sheila Hudman had a scare. She had submitted reimbursement requests to the New Mexico Environment Department for a grant the village had received last year. But instead of depositing money into the village’s bank account, the agency sent a troubling letter. In its letter, NMED said it would no longer accept invoices or requests for reimbursement for the grant. According to a story in the Silver City Daily Press on Monday, that Jan.